Fatehpur: A tale of French heritage, Rajasthani Art and emergence of the Marwari community

Fatehpur is a town  halfway in the middle of Jaipur and Bikaner in the Sikar region of Rajasthan. It is known for excellent havelis with frescos, which are huge architectural structures of the Shekhawati district. A large number of wells and springs known as bawdis are also there in Fatehpur.

The city of Fatehpur was built by Fateh Khan Kayamkhani in 1451 AD. He built the fortress of Fatehpur in 1449 and ruled till 1474. Fatehpur was the capital of Shekhawati Riyasat under its ruler and originator Fateh Khan, the Muslim Nawab. The town of Jalalsar which is 10 km south of Fatehpur was built by Fateh Khan's eldest child, Jalalkhan. After the demise of Fateh Khan in 1474, Jalalkhan turned into the Nawab of Fatehpur. 

In the medieval period, there were majorly five huge and other small realms . The enormous 5 were Amber (Jaipur), Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur (Marwar) and Udaipur (Mewar). The initial two kingdoms shared the area which was bound to end up so rich in wall paintings. The founder of Shekhawati was MahaRao Shekha Ji, a relative of the distinguished Kachhawaha Rajput faction who held Amber-Jaipur for a very long time. Relatives of Baloji, the third child of Raja Udaikaran of Amber were the chieftains of Shekhawati , who succeeded to the throne in 1389.  
The story of MahaRao Shekha Ji is fascinating. Mokul Ji was a fifteenth century chieftain in the Amber region who was very sad in light of the fact that he had no child. In those days, it was practically evil for a ruler to pass on without a heir. So having heard a considerable measure about the supernatural forces of the Muslim saint, Sheik Burhan Chisti, Mokul Ji and his wife met him. With the favors of the Sheik, a child was destined to the Rajput couple. Mokul Ji named his kid Shekha, who would go on to become the founder of Shekhawati.
MahaRao Shekha Ji who ruled from 1433 to 1488 was the chieftain of Amarsar in Amber where he declined to pay tribute to the Kachhawaha leaders of Amber-Jaipur. He then broke away and attained sovereignty. After attaining sovereignty, Shekhawati involved a unique grouping of little fiefdoms privately known as thikanas, the striking of which were Sikar, Khetri Nawalgarh, Dundlod, Mandawa and Parasrampura. Notwithstanding, the chieftains of Shekhawati held an ostensible unwaveringness to the Amber (Jaipur) State, who thus respected them with inherited titles. It was presumably because of this introduction to the lovely courts of Amber-Jaipur that Shekhawati's posts and havelis (manors) came to be embellished magnificently with wall paintings(murals).  
After the passing of Aurangzeb in 1707 as the Mughal Empire strated declining, the relatives of MahaRao Shekha Ji, who were in the east of the Aravallis, started to infringe the west and north through the Udaipurwati and Sikar gaps in the hills.

An unfathomable amount of trade exchange happened through Shekhawati. Merchants and traders got pulled in into the locale from the early nineteenth century till around 1822. Exchange of opium, cotton and flavors prospered and this began to be treated as the new place to meet for people from Middle east, China and India. The trader group that developed then is still a conspicuous class in the Indian culture today – the Marwaris. The immense cash that they dispensed was to pay for the sheer volume of aesthetic expression that decorates the walls of Shekhawati. These marwaris and banias assembled palatial havelis for themselves and their ancestors. The haveli served the same purpose to the banias what the fort served to the Rajputs.  The men led their business on the white cotton sleeping pads of their living rooms. The marwaris additionally funded temples, gardens, baolis (step wells) and dharamshalas (caravansaries) for the general population.
As the British foothold grew stronger in India, the prospering cross-desert trade shriveled away. Bombay and Calcutta became more important ports. By the 1820s and 30s, it was evident that the eventual fate of exchanging would not be in Rajasthan. Be that as it may, the marwaris of Shekhawati would not be so easily put down. Before the end of the nineteenth century, the marwaris had cut a really enormous corner for themselves in the monetary circle in Calcutta. Essentially, they took position in Bombay, Surat and Hyderabad as well.

A lane in Fatehpur

Located in the north-east of Rajasthan, Shekhawati saw a brilliant time of enormous income through stations for parades which came about to mass development of luxuriously enlivened living Havelis that are the epitome of Shekhawati's art. In Shekhawati, Havelis were worked by trader group (Marwaris) to symbolize their richness and to give safe house to their more distant family when they were away working together.

The ceiling of the havelis offers all encompassing view of the town. Other than used for flying kites, these stay occupied through-out the year in drying flavors, fabrics, chastening monkeys or resting under the stars in summers. Such a large number of fascinating things get appended to housetops, for example, charming the young lady adjacent, going adoration letters through kites, etc. The walls are likewise finished with choice mirror work and massively enlivened friezes. However the best works of the havelis are done on the roof to be seen straight up while going by these havelis.
Many travellers think of Shekhawati as a proper city and subsequently discover something else. Therefore, it is difficult to plan a trip to Shekhawati using public transport. Shekhawati is a district which displays mystery and flimsy engineering in every kilometer.
Door in a Haveli

 Nadine Le Prince Haveli

French craftsman Nadine Le Prince, a relative of prestigious French painter Jean-Baptiste Le Prince obtained the haveli in 1998. The "Nand Lal Devra Haveli" (signifying "The Haveli of Nandlal Devra": Nandlal Devra is the name of the dealer who developed the haveli) was initially made in 1802 by a rich group of brokers, the Devras, who were officers at the court of the Maharaja. From that point forward, Nadine Le Prince has altogether restored the haveli and all the frescoes. She is doing much to protect and restore the legacy of havelis all through Shekhawati, working with different relationship to give the havelis a second life. 

Moreover, she has opened a cultural center where her most valuable compositions are displayed alongside numerous French and Indian advanced specialists' attempts to blend old and contemporary workmanship. The Kala Dirga Gallery of Contemporary Art highlights pieces made by specialists about India; the Saraswati Gallery covers customary subjects of Rajasthan, through painting. Moreover, there are two minimal Tribal Art Galleries showing the imaginative work of tribes, as Patachitras and Madhubani.

 The haveli expresses a craftsman's spirit and blends French sensibilities with Shekhawati lavishness. Strong bougainvilleas are sprinkled on the frescoed walls and stark marble breakfast tables are in front of conventional fancy entrance. The path in which Nadine Haveli had stood, had been a famous hub for old painted houses and it had appears like a kind of a historical museum. Each specialty, corner, entrance and space had scaled down representations of Shekhawati aspirants and their dreams.
The nineteenth and early twentieth century was a brilliant period for Shekhawati frescoes and neighborhood vendors. They settled in huge urban communities and lavishly spent money on their home. They spent enormous amounts of money into Shekhawati dusty's paths, by building resplendent houses and covering them with lovely frescoes painted with colours and gems. It had been a period of incredible riches when everyone with cash had contended with the other in building greater, showier and fancier structures.

Art Gallery

“The desert and the ocean are realms of desolation on the surface.
The desert is a place of bones, where the innards are turned out, to desiccate into dust.
The ocean is a place of skin, rich outer membranes hiding thick juicy insides, laden with the soup of being.
Inside out and outside in. These are worlds of things that implode or explode, and the only catalyst that determines the direction of eco-movement is the balance of water.
Both worlds are deceptive, dangerous. Both, seething with hidden life.
The only veil that stands between perception of what is underneath the desolate surface is your courage.
Dare to breach the surface and sink.” 
― Vera Nazarian,The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration